Reading the Past: Current Approaches to Interpretation in Archaeology

By Ian Hodder; Scott Hutson | Go to book overview

6
Embodied archaeology

Many of the approaches considered thus far – processualism, structuralism, Marxism – lack adequate consideration of the agent. This lacuna was filled in part by the discussion of agency in the concluding section of the previous chapter. Nevertheless, a close reading of that section shows that in our presentation of different forms of agency, we never paid close attention to the nature of the agent that exercises (or is exercised by) agency. We were careful not to presume that the agent is always an individual in a Western sense and we argued for the cultural and historical malleability of 'the person', but we have yet to consider what might be dangerous about the term 'individual' or what justification we might have in claiming that the 'person' and its close relatives the 'self' and the 'subject' are so malleable.

To explore the nature of the agent, however, is not simply to add the finishing touches to an account of agency or structuration. In archaeology, theories of practice contain flaws that no amount of tinkering or refinement will eliminate. In other words, practice does not make perfect. Both Giddens and Bourdieu have increasingly come under attack in the social sciences (e.g. Turner 1994), the main criticism being that they do not in the end provide an adequate theory of the subject and of agency. Though we find in Bourdieu the elements of a rather sophisticated theory of the subject, we agree that both his and Giddens' notions of structure leave little room for transformative action. In search of alternative theories of the subject, various archaeologists have turned to phenomenology. Many phenomenologists believe that we relate to the world not through detached, pensive reflection – not by creating internal representations of things outside of us – but by a more basic, bodily understanding gained through years of dwelling. This 'dwelling' is often referred to as 'being-in-the-world'. Though we do think abstractly,

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Reading the Past: Current Approaches to Interpretation in Archaeology
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface to the First Edition xi
  • Preface to the Second Edition xv
  • Preface to the Third Edition xvii
  • 1: The Problem 1
  • 2: Processual and Systems Approaches 20
  • 3: Structuralist, Post-Structuralist and Semiotic Archaeologies 45
  • 4: Marxism and Ideology 75
  • 5: Agency and Practice 90
  • 6: Embodied Archaeology 106
  • 7: Archaeology and History 125
  • 8: Contextual Archaeology 156
  • 9: Post-Processual Archaeology 206
  • 10: Conclusion: Archaeology as Archaeology 236
  • Bibliography 248
  • Index 284
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